Over Half of African-American Women Hit By Hair Loss Says Study

added 23rd March 2016

An American study which delved into hair loss in black women uncovered some surprising information, not in terms of how many had or still do experience some form of shedding, but the primary cause.


Dr Yolanda M. Lenzy, FAAD, a dermatologist and clinical associate at America’s University of Connecticut, worked with the Black Women’s Health Study at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center to survey over 5,5000 African American women about their hair. The results of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology earlier this month.



An Example of CCCA

There are a number of hair loss conditions known to disproportionately affect afro hair due to its naturally more brittle composition, with Traction Alopecia being the most commonly referred to of these. Traction Alopecia is caused by the frequent wearing of hairstyles that are too tight, too heavy, or both – such as braids, dreadlocks, weaves or hair extensions – and the tension can distort the hair follicles leading to receding all around the hairline as well as at sites of particular strain.


Despite this widely-known condition being a frequent reason for hair loss among black women, the survey found that it was not in fact the number one cause among the African American women surveyed. Neither was Female Pattern Hair Loss, even though genetic baldness is the most widespread hair loss condition in the world. The data revealed that the primary cause of hair loss among the group of women asked was Central Centrifugal Cicatricial Alopecia (CCCA).


CCCA is a type of scarring alopecia, previously known as Hot Comb Alopecia, and sometimes simply referred to as Cicatricial Alopecia, whereby scarring of the scalp destroys the hair follicles leading to hair loss in those areas which is usually permanent. It can be brought on by a number of factors that induce inflammation, including burns – whether from fire or chemicals such as those used to relax afro hair – and certain illnesses. There is an assumed genetic link given the condition can run in families and many understand it to be synonymous with Follicular Degeneration Syndrome (FDS).


Hair loss around the top of the head and/or crown area was reported by 47.6 per cent of the women surveyed yet of this segment, a whopping 81.4 per cent had not received, or sought, help, mostly because they were unaware that this was even a possibility.


Given the age range and huge prevalence of female pattern hair loss worldwide, Dr Lenzy admitted that genetic hair loss was likely in some of the women surveyed, however her research found that, startlingly, the great majority – 40.9 per cent – were a better fit with CCCA. Backing the women’s claims that they did not know hair loss treatment or advice was available, of these Dr Lenzy-diagnosed CCCA cases only 8.8 per cent had received a professional diagnosis previously.


‘This problem often goes undiagnosed because patients don’t know they should visit a dermatologist for evaluation,’ confirms Dr Lenzy. If caught early enough before the hair follicles are completely destroyed then some people advocate treatment with extra strength minoxidil – the same topical medication used to treat Traction Alopecia and other forms of hair loss in women – to encourage regrowth. Where the follicles are badly damaged to the point where hair growth becomes impossible due to the follicles disintegrating and baldness occurring, even hair loss treatments will not work although in some instances hair restoration surgery may be possible.

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